By Vijay Singh
Navi Mumbai: A 60-year-old blind elephant, Lakhi, which had been forced to beg on streets and work at private functions all her life, is finally going by road to the animal rescue centre in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, on Wednesday following with court orders.
Animal rights activists are overjoyed by this development as their long legal struggle to find a better life for Lakhi is over.
"For more than seven years, we had been trying to rescue the blind elephant, Lakhi, and two other elephants owned by one Ramesh Lekhraj Pandey. In the past two years, the other two passed away after being forced to beg on the streets of Pune. We are happy to have saved Lakhi from a hellish life of abuse," said People for Animals (PFA) activist Manoj Oswal.
Oswal, who is also an animal welfare officer attached to the Animal Welfare Board of India, added that their lucky breakthrough in rescuing Lakhi came a few weeks back when he got a tip-off that the ailing pachyderm was being forced to work at a film shoot in Karjat, Raigad district.
"We rushed to the spot and also lodged a complaint with the Raigad range forest officer as elephants are protected wildlife species. This crucial evidence of a blind elephant being made to work in a film shoot was taken cognizance of by the Pune-based judicial magistrate court first class (JMFC), and the animal was handed in our custody," he said.
"The court has taken cognizance of the extreme cruelty meted out to Lakhi and her poor medical condition caused by years of torture and pain. I am happy to see that she is finally getting justice and she will live in the company of other elephants in a completely natural environment," said Tanvi Kulkarni, chairperson of PFA.
Medical investigation showed that she was found to be completely blind, had deep wounds on her feet that emitted a foul smell, and there were other wounds all over her body and holes in her ears caused by constant torture.
Oswal said, "Last year, one of the other two elephants, Poornima, owned by the same accused had died painfully due to overwork and abuse. Since then, we became all the more determined to save Lakhi from this life of misery. In several big cities such as Pune, Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai, many elephants are forced to work like this for their masters."
Activists added that they will have further meetings with state forest officials to ensure a complete ban on any such illegal use of elephants.